In life what defines your well being is, to a great extent, your point of view. You always have a choice in how you take circumstances in life and what you make of them. This is, however, the biggest challenge. It is extremely difficult to keep a positive outlook when you are feeling horrible and, many times, no one even believes you. It takes practice and resolve to keep the optimism going when you don’t have energy to make it out of bed. But practice makes perfect, and more importantly, creates habits. Optimsm is a habit of the mind. You can train your own mind, through perseverence, to choose the positive description of whatever is happening to you, no matter what it is.
This is not to say that emotions are to be denied, on the contrary, supressed emotions wreak havock on the immune system. Emotions, positive and negative, have to be felt and let go of. You can’t be angry all the time, just as you can’t be exstatically happy all the time. Emotions are normal reactions of the biological body, and part of life. They are what give life that “feeling alive” quality. But you are, ultimately, the owner of your emotions and of the definition and context you give them. Here is the choice: Accepting your emotions and thinking in any way that makes them positive for you and your life.
For example, I can be really angry at my boss because he doesn’t understand that I really feel sick and I’m not making it up to be lazy. I do feel angry, no denial. But I can choose to think about this circumstance in different ways:
- Poor me, nobody understands me (victim).
- My boss is unfeeling and horrible (blaming).
- I am not fit to work, I am useless (self-depreciating).
- Anger means I care about my job, so I will use this anger to work harder (self-demanding).
- I accept that I am angry, I accept that I will not be understood because nobody that has not felt this way could ever understand, and I will do the best I can with what I have, also accepting that if it isn’t good enough for this job, I can find another less demanding one (self accepting and loving).
- Anger means that I’m stressed out, and that this job doesn’t fill my requirements to live a fulfilling life, I will start looking for alternatives that are better suited to me (putting yourself and your needs first).
- It is obvious that my boss doesn’t understand, so I will bring him information about lupus and invite him to join my on-line support group, so he can know me a little better (proactive).
The choice is ultimately yours, so choose whatever makes you feel good about yourself and your life.
There is a useful exercice to change your outlook on any given situation. It’s called three chairs:
THREE CHAIRS EXERCICE
Place three chairs side by side with eachother. Say out loud or mentally to the chairs:
First chair: You are the child, demanding and self-absorbed.
Second chair: You are the good mother, undrstanding and compassionate.
Third chair: You are the wise woman, who knows the higher truth of this situation.
Now think of the situation that is bothering you.
1. Sit in the first chair: complain and whine and say everything you want to that person or situation (in our example, to your boss). When you have said everything you are feeling, change to the second chair.
2. Sit in the second chair and actively listen to your inner child’s complaints, as a mother would, and give the imaginary child in the first chair what he/she needs, understanding, attention, a hug, whatever your inner child needs to hear or receive in this particular situation. When you are finished, go back to the first chair and see how the child feels. If he/she is still feeling emotions, repeat the exercise until he/ is happy and calm, then move on to the third chair.
3. Sit in the third chair and ask out loud “what is the truth about this situation?” and wait quietly for the answer. It can come as an idea, a feeling, a word, a symbol, a color. Just integrate whetever comes, don’t analize it. Now think of the situation again. See if anything within you has changed, see how you feel about it now.
With practice you don’t have to use the actual chairs anymore, you can do it all in your mind, but to start you should use the chairs, since moving from one place to another when you have laid down specific instructions for each place is in itself a change in the outlook on any particular situation.